The multi-billionaire founder of online department store Amazon Jeff Bezos has accused US President Joe Biden of either misleading or cheating by calling on fuel distributors to cut prices immediately, prompting White House officials to rush to the head of state’s defense.
“My message to the companies that operate the gas stations and set the prices at the pump is simple: we are in a time of war and global danger,” the US president said via Twitter on Saturday. “Reduce the prices you charge at the pump to reflect the cost you pay for the product. And do it now.”
For Mr. Bezos, the presidential reasoning is “either an attempt to mislead, or a profound misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.” “Inflation is too serious a problem for the White House to keep making statements like this,” the world’s third-richest man added.
The flare-up in retail fuel prices, a symbol of a broader rise in the cost of living in the world’s largest economy, is sinking the popularity of the Democratic president, who often accuses oil giants of profiteering and making no effort to fix the problem.
The latter counter that they have increased their production and the operation of their refineries, but prices are set in the world market and subject to dynamics beyond their control.
White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre rushed to Joe Biden’s defense yesterday, noting, also via Twitter, that “oil prices are down about $15 in the last month,” but gas station prices are still “barely down.” “This is not ‘fundamental market dynamics’. This is a market that is draining the American consumer,” he added.
The gallon (the 3.8 liters) of gasoline in the US exceeded the symbolic limit of 5 dollars for the first time in early June. It has eased somewhat since then, but remains far from the $3.10 where it was a year ago.
John Kirby, the newly appointed White House communications coordinator for strategic issues, also defended Joe Biden’s position on Sunday during an interview he gave to the conservative Fox television network.
“The president is working very hard, on several fronts (…) to lower prices” at the pump, he assured, before referring, among other things, to his proposal to suspend the federal fuel consumption tax – subject to congressional approval –. as well as in his decision to release large amounts of US strategic oil reserves.
Of course, Mr. Biden “knows this isn’t going to solve all the problems, but it would help if everybody worked together and we were able to get prices down by about $1 a gallon,” he added.